Does my personal injury attorney have a discipline record with the State Bar? This is a question that you should ask (among many others) when trying to decide who to hire to represent you on any matter. It is especially important to know if you are considering retaining a lawyer to represent you or your family in a personal injury or wrongful death case. Why? Oftentimes, attorneys with disciplinary records have been reprimanded for things like failing to adequately represent their client’s interests or improperly accounting for settlement funds in their attorney client trust account. While every lawyer is “innocent until proven guilty” by the system, a simple check can tell you whether the legal counsel you are considering hiring has prior or pending charges lodged against them.
How to check if the personal injury attorney I am considering has a disciplinary record with the State Bar of California?
Most states, including California, have State Bar Associations who are charged with making sure lawyers in that state are in compliance with the rules which govern the practice of law. Many of these State Bar Associations now have online resources and websites where clients can look up the lawyer they are considering hiring and see whether or not that attorney has a record of pending or prior discipline. The web address in California is as follows: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/ . When you go to this site, you will see a small box towards the upper right hand of the home page, which says, “Attorney Search”. Simply type in the name of the lawyer, and look towards the bottom of the page under the category entitled, “Actions Effecting Eligibility to Practice Law”. The page will also tell you a lot of useful information about the lawyer including their educational background, official address and phone number, and the date they were initially admitted to practice law in the State of California.
Example of Attorney State Bar Web Page of Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer, Steven M. Sweat:
As an example, here is my web page with the California Bar: http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/Member/Detail/181867
Importance of doing a background check on an attorney prior to hiring them to represent you or your family in a personal injury or wrongful death claim in California:
Hiring an attorney to represent you after an injury or when a close family member is killed due to negligence or a wrongful act is a very grave and important decision. As I have blogged about in other posts, retaining an accident lawyer is not something that should be done based upon a 30 second T.V. advertisement or some other self-serving representation about being “the best” or “a fighter”. Researching the background of any law firm or lawyer should be an essential part of the process of selecting them. Personal injury claims will usually take several months at a minimum and years sometimes (at a maximum) to resolve. You need to know that your lawyer will be zealous in representing you over the long haul. You also need to know that your counselor will be honest in their dealings with you especially when it comes to accounting for settlement or judgment proceeds. While there are many ways to conduct this type of research, a quick trip to the State Bar of California website is a good start!
For more information or assistance with any personal injury claims questions in California including Los Angeles, give us a call, statewide toll free: 866-966-5240
Disclaimer: Nothing in this post or site should be considered a guarantee or warranty of the outcome of any legal matter.